Celebrated Rice University physics professor and researcher Adilet Imambekov died this week on a mountain-climbing trek in his native Kazakhstan. The 30-year-old leaves behind his wife Aigerim Kabdiyeva and two children.
While details are sketchy, a Wednesday email from Kabdiyeva told university officials that her husband had been found dead in his tent by a climbing guide as they were ascending the Khan Tengri Peak along Kazakhstan's border with China and Kyrgyzstan. Imambekov died in a base camp located at an altitude of 17,300 feet, roughly 6,000 feet from the top of the mountain.
Though the cause of death is still unknown, those who knew the young scientist remember him for his impeccable physical health and his love of endurance sports like cycling and marathon running. He ran his first triathlon in May and boasted a finishing time just below 12 hours.
T hose who knew the young scientist remember him for his impeccable physical health and his love of endurance sports like cycling and marathon running.
"This news has been shocking to us," Tom Killian, who chairs Rice's physics and astronomy department, tells CultureMap. "Adilet was in wonderful condition and has been climbing mountains since he was young. He certainly has tackled much higher peaks in the past."
Killian says that Imambekov was an important part of his department as well as an integral figure on the Rice campus known for collaborating across disciplines and organizing running sessions with fellow faculty members.
As a physicist, Imambekov concentrated on the fundamental properties of matter with a particular interest in understanding how matter behaves in confined space — an important field of study as circuits and microchips get smaller and smaller, according to Killian. Imambekov's work already had earned him numerous accolades, including a National Science Foundation CAREER Award as well as a coveted Sloan Research Fellowship.
"One of the greatest tragedies from all this is that he's leaving behind a wife and two kids," Killian says in closing. "Our hearts go out to them all."
The burial takes place this weekend in Almaty, Kazakhstan. A formal memorial service is anticipated at Rice early in the fall semester.